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From wild leek pesto to asparagus salad to rhubarb strawberry crumble, these 10 dishes make the most of early spring produce

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In isolation, we are all cooking. For some, it’s a pleasure; for others, a challenge. But for all of us, it happens daily. The Globe wants to make this easier for you – and more fun – with a collection of recipes that will make your taste buds tingle.

Focusing on pantry staples, seasonal cooking, and family favourites, as well as a few more sophisticated recipes, I hope this collection will help you cook delicious food with a wide range of flavours. Although some recipes may be more challenging, most are easily accomplished.

These recipes come from my files, the Globe archives, other Globe contributors, and some of my foodie friends. All have been tested. I would love your feedback, tell me what you cooked and share photos with me at By the time COVID-19 is under control in Canada, I believe we will have a fine cookbook.

Happy cooking.

Skip to a recipe:

Wild leek pesto | Icy Thai green pea soup | Asparagus salad with arugula | Roasted chickpea and lacinato kale salad | Roasted cod with spiced breadcrumbs | Spaghetti carbonara | Spiced pork tenderloin with apples and cider | Spicy chicken from Senegal | Rhubarb strawberry crumble | Tara O’Brady’s walnut oatmeal cookies

Wild leek pesto

Makes about 3/4 cup

Wild leeks are my favourite wild food. Vastly different from regular leeks, the wild variety taste like a shallot-garlic cross, and pack a lot of flavour for such fragile-looking shoots. Their season is short: Take advantage while you can.

To prepare them, cut off the little roots and rinse the leeks. Remove any papery skin around the stems. You can cook wild leeks whole or sauté the stems for a minute before adding the leaves. They are excellent with green beans, asparagus, in quiche or omelettes. Wrap fresh wild leeks in a paper towel and store them in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Serve wild leek pesto as a sauce for grilled chicken, toss with pasta or brush on fish hot out of the skillet. It freezes well, too. If you do not like hazelnuts, use almonds or, if someone has a nut allergy, replace the nuts with a few breadcrumbs.

  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, skinned
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped wild leeks
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place hazelnuts in a food processor and grind until nuts are roughly chopped. Add leeks and oil and process until still slightly chunky.

Stir in Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Icy Thai green pea soup

Serves 4

With their vivid colour, green pea soups spark up an ordinary dinner. This can be made with either fresh or frozen peas, and for a different presentation and taste, top with a small scoop of lime or lemon gelato. If you do not have green curry paste, then red or even a mild Indian one will work. The colour will not be as intense, but the taste will be exceptional. Make shelling the peas a family activity.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 leek, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shelled green peas (about 2 lb/ 1 kg in the pod)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Heat butter in a pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 4 minutes or until well softened. Add Thai curry paste and stir together. Add chicken stock, peas and mint and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes or until peas are tender.

Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and season with salt and pepper. Chill. Scatter with chives to serve.

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Asparagus salad with arugula

Serves 4

This dish is amazingly simple with lots of flavour. If the asparagus stalks are thick, then peel them. It only takes a few minutes and thedifference in taste and texture is worth the time. Look for straight stalks with tightly budded heads. Asparagus should stand in about 1-inch water in the fridge if you are keeping it for longer than two days. The recipe is just a guideline, so feel free to use less or more asparagus as you like. Other customizations can be found: Use goat cheese instead of Parmesan, slivered green onions instead of chives, any lettuce will do, but it is the spiciness of arugula that offsets the asparagus. Add your favourite herb into the vinaigrette. I like tarragon.

  • 2 lb (1 kg) thick asparagus stalks, peeled and trimmed
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Bring a large skillet of salted water to boil. Add asparagus spears and boil for about 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp tender. Immediately plunge them into cold water to cool to retain their colour. After draining, place on a tea towel or napkin to absorb any more water. Place on serving dish, scatter with arugula and season with some salt and pepper.

Whisk together olive oil, Dijon, lemon juice and rind. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad. Season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan and chives to garnish.

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Roasted chickpea and lacinato kale salad with a mojito-inspired dressing

Serves 2-3 as a meal, 4 as a side dish

My friend Megan Horsley specializes in creating recipes for people who want to cook healthily at home. This is her flavourful, delicious salad.

  • Chickpeas and sweet potato
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 can organic chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Mojito-inspired dressing
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • A small handful of mint leaves (about 10)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic


  • 1 bunch lacinato kale or other preferred leafy greens, chopped
  • Garnish
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts or sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup broccoli sprouts, optional

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss sweet potato with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on half of the baking sheet. Toss chickpeas with the remaining ingredients and spread on the other half. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until chickpeas are crisp and sweet potato is tender. Cool slightly.

Blend dressing in a blender or with a handheld blender until smooth.

Combine kale, sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Toss with dressing and top with radishes, cucumber, walnuts, hemp hearts and sprouts.

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Roasted cod with spiced breadcrumbs

Serves 2

Cod is a versatile fish. A thickish fillet makes it suitable for oven roasting. If the end is skinny, then fold it under for baking. This simple recipe takes 10 minutes to get together and a few more to cook. Cooking fish is very quick. Use other vegetables such as leeks, spinach, beans, even wilted salad vegetables for garnish instead of tomatoes and mushrooms. You can buy seed mixtures, such as dukkah or mixed seeds, to give added crunch. If you have some use it, but don’t worry if you do not.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 tablespoon fresh
  • 1 lb cod, thicker fillets if possible
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms or any kin

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and add garlic. Sauté for a minute then add breadcrumbs, mustard and tarragon. Combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Oil a baking dish and add cod. Season with salt and pepper. Top with bread crumb mixture and sprinkle with a seed mixture of you have it.

Surround with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until cod is just cooked. It will be the same colour all through.

Serve from baking dish.

Spaghetti carbonara

Serves 4

Though this recipe calls for spaghetti, it can be made with any long pasta you have in your cupboard. Set up with heated bowls ready for the pasta. Contrary to most pasta recipes, I find that using a smaller pot here means the pasta cooking water has more starch in it, which you need to bind the sauce. Traditionally guanciale (pork jowl) is used, but right now pancetta is much easier to find and particularly good. Failing that, use diced bacon.

  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 ounces (200 g) diced pancetta
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or ½ cup grated Parmesan, ½ cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring pot of well-salted water to boil. The water should taste slightly salty. Add spaghetti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. It will cook a little more in the sauce.

Meanwhile heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and pancetta and sauté until pancetta is crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Beat together eggs and half of cheese and season with a little salt and lots of pepper.

Discard garlic cloves. Remove from heat. As soon as pasta is cooked, using tongs add spaghetti to the pancetta pan and stir together over low heat. Add ½ cup pasta cooking water and stir together. Remove from heat and stir in eggs and cheese using tongs to make sure the pasta becomes coated. Add a bit more pasta cooking water if it seems dry. Sprinkle with parsley and with tongs swirl the pasta into 4 bowls.

Spiced pork tenderloin with apples and cider

Serves 4

An easy dish subtly spiced and perfect for a date night at home. Use any kind of apple that you have; if you like tartness, opt for Granny Smith. Cider also makes this dish stand out. If you don’t have cider, apple juice works well. And if you don’t have the spices for the spice mixture, use garam masala instead. Farro or brown rice are good sides.

Spice mixture

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 1.5 lbs (750 g) pork tenderloin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tart apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • ½ cup apple cider (or apple juice)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 3 sprigs thyme

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Sprinkle pork tenderloin with 1 tablespoon spice mixture, reserving 1 tablespoon for sauce. Season with salt.

Heat vegetable oil in an oven-proof sauté pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tenderloin and brown on all sides, about 4 to 6 minutes in total.

Remove tenderloin from skillet and add apples, onions, and ginger. Sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining spice mixture. Sauté 1 minute longer. Add apple cider, maple syrup, orange rind and thyme. Bring to boil and simmer together for a couple of minutes. Push apple mixture to sides. Add browned tenderloin, cover skillet and roast in oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until tenderloin is just pink inside and apples are soft.

Slice tenderloin and serve with apple and onion mixture on the side.

Spicy chicken from Senegal

Serve 3 to 4

I’ve started to crave spicy food as a change from so much pasta and plain food. This dish, which comes from Senegal, can be as spicy as you want it to be. It perks up the taste buds and makes food seem interesting again. The heat in this mouth-watering dish is from chilies, and you can use less or more as you prefer – for a hotter dish, do not seed the chilies. You can make it with any parts of the chicken, but legs and thighs on the bone have extra juiciness when cooked this way. Serve with rice or black beans. This recipe halves well, but I love to serve the leftover chicken for lunch another day.


  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced Thai red chili peppers, seeded or more to taste
  • 2 to 3 lbs (1.5 kg) chicken legs with thighs, split
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cups sliced red onions (about 2)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1½ cups chicken stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ cups diced sweet potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup pimiento-stuffed olives cut into thirds
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Combine lemon juice, lemon rind, vegetable oil and minced chili in a medium bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss together. Cover bowl and leave to marinate, refrigerated for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken in batches and brown well, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with a cooking rack. Repeat with remaining chicken. Bake chicken on roasting rack for 25 to 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon oil from skillet and discard. Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add onions, season with salt to bring out juices. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until onions are soft and browned. Add lemon rind, stock and Dijon. Stir until combined. Stir in sweet potatoes and olives. Bring to a boil, boil 1 minute, and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, for 16 to 18 minutes until crisp tender. Remove cover and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, 5 to10 minutes. Reserve.

Serve chicken coated with vegetables and sauce. Garnish with parsley.

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Rhubarb strawberry crumble

Serves 2

This seriously delicious crumble is very quick to make, and is lower in sugar than most crumbles because the strawberries add sweetness. Use all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour if desired.

  • 2 cups mixed strawberries and rhubarb, any ratio, or all rhubarb
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom


  • ¼ quick cooking oats
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cardamom together. Place in two buttered 6-inch baking dishes or 1 larger buttered baking dish.

Mix topping ingredients by hand and sprinkle over fruit. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm with ice cream.

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Tara O'Brady/Handout

Tara O’Brady’s walnut oatmeal cookies

Makes 12 large cookies

Tara, who writes for The Globe, makes wonderful cookies. These crackled, sturdy cookies take well to adaptation. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for one week.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon medium-grain kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft but not warm
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel or finely grated peel of half an orange
  • 1 egg, cold
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup butter toffee chips
  • 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat an oven to 350F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attached, cream the butter, sugars, and peel on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 minutes.

Scrape down bowl and beater, then cream mixture for 3 minutes more. Scrape down again. Beat in the egg and vanilla on medium speed.

Stir in the flour mixture. Once almost combined, with flour still visible, tip in the oats, then the walnuts, dates, chocolate and toffee bits.

Form 12 balls of dough using 2 1/2 tablespoons for each. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets, leaving space for spread. Bake in the hot oven until puffed with dry, golden tops, 13 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans once during baking.

Immediately when pulled from oven, knock pans against the stovetop or counter (the cookies will deflate quickly, creating craggy tops). Cool cookies on pans for 3 minutes, then move to a baking rack to cool.


If you keep the general volume of add-ins, feel free to swap and adapt as desired. Swap the spices, nuts, dried fruit or chocolate. Coconut or candied ginger are especially good in place of the toffee.

For a brown-butter version, brown the butter then cool until firm before blending with sugars and adding 2 tablespoons water.

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